28 February 2014

Monteville Harness Homesteads in New Mexico

An update of sorts on Montevill Harness. This man gets around.

Monteville Harness is living in Estancia, Torrance County, New Mexico, in 1910 (Enumeration District 274, page 12B). Farmer Monteville doesn't own the property he lived on in 1910 (the enumeration indicated the farm was rented), so I took a chance and looked for him in the online index to federal land records at the Bureau of Land Management website. My theory was that in 1910 the area was fairly unsettled and "free" land may have easily motivated a farmer to settle in the area.

For once I was right--there he was:

The farm he completed a homestead for was in Santa Fe County, but the name is so unusual that it almost has to be him. Of course, it is possible that there is another Monteville Harness living in Santa Fe County, New Mexico, but that seems unlikely.

I've got someone harnessing the homestead records for me and we'll have an update when the digital copies have been received. There may not be a vast quantity of genealogical information in the file, but one never knows.

A superficial search of post-1910 census records failed to locate Monteville in any census, but his wife apparently is enumerated in California in 1920. And there's a Monteville Harness living in Albequerque in the 1920s. I'm going to wait to do further research on him and his wife until I see what is in the homestead application.

Based upon what I've found on him and his wife in these later records, I'm wondering if the couple did not separate or divorce after 1910. At this point that is mere speculation based upon the information I have found thus far.

I'm also going to keep my goal in the forefront of my mind as well. I'm researching Monteville in hopes of determining who his biological parents are and if they were related to Monteville's adoptive parents in Hancock County, Illinois--James and Elizabeth (Chaney) Rampley.

Note: The Bureau of Land Management website does not (as of this writing) include every homestead ever granted--yet. Failure to find a name in that database does not mean the person did not receive a homestead.


I'm a strong believer in citations and in my work (and in Casefile Clues) I cite material in the spirit of Evidence Explained. Here on the Rootdig blog, I have a different philosophy. Posts made here have enough information that the reader could locate where the material was obtained.

March 2014 Organizing Genealogical Information Class

March 2014 Class

Registrations no longer accepted.

Organizing Genealogical Information:
A Short Course
With Michael John Neill
(scroll down for specific schedule)
Organizing information is an important part of genealogical research—perhaps more important than the actual research. This short course (only 4 sessions) is intended to provide the students with exposure to a variety of ways to organize information with an emphasis on problem-solving. The course will consist of four lectures (topics and schedule below), problem assignments, virtual follow-up discussions, group discussion board interaction, and student submission of work (optional). There is no assigned grade—you get from this what you put into it. Students will also be able to share their work and ideas with other students.
Citation of sources is important, but presentations will not focus on citation theory.
This time the course will be presented a little bit differently. Students will be able to download the lecture and view it at their convenience--ideally all on the same day that the download link is sent to registered students.
Course registration is only $30 for this run of the course. Class size is limited to 30 to encourage group interaction.
  • Assignment/Study 1Charts, Charts, and More Charts (we will discuss a variety of charts and table to organize your information and your searches—all students work on same problem
  • Assignment/Study 24 Step Research Process (we will discuss a four-step process to research organization)—pick your own problem
  • Assignment/Study 3— Constructing Families from pre-1850 Census (discuss of how to ascertain family structure from pre-1850 US census records)---all work on same problem
  • Assignment/Study 4— Problem Solving Chart (problem-solving techniques not discussed in previous lectures)– pick your own problem
Registrations no longer accepted.

Lecture downloads:
  • 8 March
  • 15 March
  • 22 March
  • 29 March
Discussions are at:
  • 11 March 1:30 pm.-2:15 pm.Central Time
  • 18 March 1:30 pm.-2:15 pm.Central Time
  • 25 March 1:30 pm.-2:15 pm.Central Time
  • 1 April 1:30 pm.-2:15 pm.Central Time

Lectures and discussions will be via GotoMeeting.

Registrations no longer accepted. 

Or use this webpage:


27 February 2014

Fold3.com's Civil War Pension Filming Taking Longer Than the War

[note: This commentary only discusses digital images of pensions on Fold3.com. Orginals are still available at the National Archives.]

Fold3.com has been working on the "Civil War 'Widow's Pensions' " for  a while. In fact I can't remember when the project actually started. But looking at their blog posts it appears that they've been digitizing these images since at least 2008 and are now 5% complete.

It's now 2014. That's 6 years. The Ameican Civil War itself didn't last that long.

The screen shot in this blog post indicates that the project currently has 5% of the images posted. Even if I don't count 2008 or 2014 (which is already nearly 1/6 over) in my computations, that means that the project has been up and running for all of:

  • 2009
  • 2010
  • 2011
  • 2012
  • 2013
That's a safe 5 years to get 5% of the records uploaded (if they've been working longer than 5 years that's an even slower rate). 

It's a basic arithmetic problem to determine that if 5% of the job gets done in 5 years, it will take a total of 100 years to get 100% of the job done. No calculus or fancy math necessary. That's a long time to wait unless there's someone in the Fold3.com kitchen waiting on a big ol' batch of images to get all good and done.

That's 95 years to go. 95. And that's a lot longer than the Civil War. Not as long as pensions were granted, but it's darned close.

Am I missing something? 

Is my math wrong? If I'm missing something, I really hope someone can point it out to me.

Great-great-grandma Rampley had to wait 10 years to get her pension. I'm going to have to wait longer than that at this rate. 

Actually, my longest lived ancestor got to be 91. 

I'm out of luck.

[note: readers who want to obtain copies of Civil War pensions can still do so through the National Archives.]

My Blogs

For those of you who did not know, this is not my only genealogy blog. Here's list with the links. Enjoy!
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Revisiting Montevelli and My Conclusions

An "adopted" son lived with my ancestors James and Elizabeth Rampley from 1860 through 1880. This was one of my early "discoveries" about the family and about someone no one knew anything about. In summary:
  • 1860--a 14 year old, Montevelli (or something like that) Lobb is listed--no relationship
  • 1870--a 13 year old Montevelli Harness is listed--no relationship.
  • 1880--a 22 year old Montevelli Rampley is listed as an adopted son.

1860 US Census, Hancock County, Illinois, Walker Township, page 602,
entry for James Rampley household

1870 US Census, Hancock County, Illinois, Township 3-8 [Walker Township], page 10,
[James Rampley household is on two pages, this is last entry of interest on second page of entry.]

1880 US Census, Hancock County, Illinois, Walker Township, page 27,
James Rampley household
I first discovered "Montevelli" thirty years ago in the very early stages of my research. The entries for him did not seem all that consistent, but I decided they were after reading some research guide that discussed errors in the census, how things were inconsistent, etc. That had to explain the differences. After all, the research guide said there were many errors in the census.

But as I went back and looked at the entries, I realized that the 1860 entry was significantly different from the last two and there was not just one inconsistency. The 1860 person was aged 14 and born in Hanover and had the last name of "Lobb." The 1870 and 1880 Montevelli would have been 3 or 4 in 1860--listing him as 14 is quite a stretch. And the 1870 and 1880 Montevelli indicated he was born in Illinois. That is significantly different as well. It is always possible that the place of birth was given as Illinois to "make it fit," but the name difference and 1860 birthplace seemed off in a way that was more than reasonable.

And as I looked more at that first name in 1860, I began to wonder if it really was Montevelli at all. If it was a Germanic name, the English speaking census taker could easily have rendered it in a way that makes it difficult to interpret 150 years later. 

I decided to take a more detailed look at the 1865 census for James and Elizabeth. And I'm very glad I did. The 1865 Illinois state census (Walker Township) for James Rampley indicated the following numbers of household members:

  • 1 male under 10
  • 1 male 10-20
  • 1 female 10-20
  • 2 males 20-30
  • 1 male 30-40
  • 1 female 50-60
  • 1 male 60-70
  • 1 female 60-70
To be honest, I never really analyzed this entry as I didn't think I needed to. Originally located early in my research, it confirmed James was where he was supposed to be. But now I realize there are people in this entry who are unknown to me.

  • 1 male under 10--??
  • 1 male 10-20--probably James Rampley (the son)
  • 1 female 10-20--??
  • 2 males 20-30--Riley and John Rampley
  • 1 male 30-40--probably Thomas Rampley
  • 1 female 50-60--??
  • 1 male 60-70-James Rampley
  • 1 female 60-70--Elizabeth Rampley
I don't have an answer to the question marks at this point. However, I am inclined to believe that the Lobb person in 1860 is not living with the Rampleys later and that there are others living with the family in 1865 of whom I was unaware. The male under 10 could be Montevelli Harness Rampley. 

At this point, I know less than I did before. The 1870 and 1880 Montevelli has been traced to Oklahoma and New Mexico through 1910. The trail on him dries up after 1910 and I'm assuming he died. At this point, it is not known if he left any descendants or not.

Sometimes a researcher doesn't even realize they are confused until they go back and review everything.

Taping this to my Wall as a Reminder

Using online indexes to images and records can be frustrating, particularly when the desired person cannot be located.

Every so often I need to remind myself that the entry I need could be hidden on a page like this.

Items of this type are difficult for anyone to transcribe.
1860 US Census, Hancock County, Illinois, St. Marys Township, page 100

The next time you cannot find something in an index, consider the possibility that the original looks like this.

26 February 2014

Boiling Blood in the Prairie Farmer

In all honesty, I thought this letter to the editor of the Prairie Farmer in 1944 would be about grain prices.

Was I ever in for a surprise when I received a digital image of the letter my great-grandfather Ufkes wrote in 1944.

I knew my great-grandfather had two sons who served in World War II. I was not aware of the 1944 telephone strike and his feelings about it.

Sometimes researchers are tempted to ignore those "non-genealogy items" that may appear in trade publications at times when someone is not being born, getting married, or dying.

That is a mistake.

There were no new genealogical facts in the letter Great-granddad wrote. But there was plenty of opinion. There are no letters or other family mementos passed down in the family. And it is easy to see the frustration he felt when one considers that at the time he wrote this letter two of his five children were serving in the American forces in Europe.

It appears that the strike was ended in November of 1944, per the clipping from the Freeport Journal-Standard that appears in this post. The telephone strike apparently did not reach rural Illinois, but at the time Ufkes probably wrote this letter the strike may have still been going on or not yet resolved. It is also difficult to know in my elementary searches just what other media were saying about the potential for extended strikes as Ufkes references "radio" in his letter.

I'm anxiously waiting for the rural newspapers in the area where Ufkes and other family members lived to be digitized to see if there are other letters or commentary written by family members.

Genealogists find county biographies that generically describe their ancestor as a Republican or a Democrat without really any specifics of what that means for them personally.

It's been a long time since a genealogical discovery gave me a history lesson and I never dreamed that it would be from one of my rural farming ancestors.

It just goes to show you never know what you may find.

And the point must be made that it is important to never judge an ancestor by what you find. Ufkes was in the position of having two sons in the war. That's a position that I'm certain most of us would not want to find ourselves.

25 February 2014

1949 Cattle Consignments

I continue to make the occasional discovery in the "Farm, Field, and Fireside" collection of digital agricultural newspapers at the University of Illinois website. This site digitally preserves a growing collection of agricultural publications.

Even those of us with "unfamous" ancestors and relatives may find a family member mentioned in print. It wasn't only the well-known whose names appeared in publications of this type.

This advertisement appeared in the 1949 issue of Wallace's Farmer
My grandfather, Cecil Neill, raised purebred Angus cattle (in fact entries under his name still appear in the American Angus Association website if one looks carefully). This advertisement indicated that Grandpa had one bull in the sale which was held at Colchester, Illinois.

One never knows what one will run across in trade publications of this type. In this case, the details aren't going to alter any theories about my family, but they would have confirmed he was alive and living near Carthage, Illinois, in early 1949 had I not known that. Grandpa is mentioned in a 1954 judging contest as well.

Are these clues big ones? No. But for those of us who aren't fortunate to have detailed diaries, letters, and the like--they are finds.

This specific breeder assocation was still having sales at least 40 years later. I remember attending them myself.

Reflections on our Mission and Content

The Rootdig Blog was named one of 2014's "Social Media Mavericks" by Family Tree Magazine. I'm pleased with receiving the recognition.

But this blog post really isn't about that. But the nomination got me to thinking about a few things.

Occasionally I am tempted to change our focus here and concentrate on "news," "popular topics," and "what everyone else is doing."

And then I wake up.

For those who are just coming to this blog, we don't talk about those things--unless it's something that interests me. I don't write about things just because everyone else is. I write about things I'm working on, things about various websites that frustrate me, hopefully in a way that thoughtful readers can take a few ideas and adapt them to their own research. My theory is that if something about a site frustrates me, then it probably frustrates at least one other person as well.

I've given up on getting any of the big websites to change anything, but mentioning challenges on those sites lets others know that it's not "just them."

Vendors have quit sending me press releases, sample copies, etc. That's fine because I don't use press releases and don't review anything I'm not actually going to use in my research. The only opinion you will find here is mine. If you purchase something through an affiliate link, that's ok, but I'm not going to become destitute if you don't. I don't use this blog to support myself (grin!).

Unless you are related to me, I'm probably not going to write about your relatives. My children have ancestors who range from Mayflower passengers to late 19th century immigrants, hailing from 8 countries, and who lived in quite a few US states. I don't need additional topics about which to write.

Some days I write several posts and some days I write none. I'm on no schedule other than my own. I do make the occasional typographical error--just to see if people are paying attention.

I take my research pretty seriously and that's hopefully reflected in these posts. Myself I take less seriously.

Thanks to those who have been loyal readers. I appreciate them--even those who lurk and don't comment. And it's okay that readers don't comment---I do that myself.

No Progress on Harvesting Issues of Prairie Farmer Magazine

Prairie Farmer magazine's
were seen across Illinois, Indiana,
and other Midwest states
I'm still working on locating a copy of the 1944 issue of Prairie Farmer magazine. My searches of websites, card catalogs, WorldCat, etc. have been frustrated by a few challenges which I'll summarize below.

More than one Prairie Farmer

It appears that there was more than one Prairie Farmer magazine. Fortunately during the time period of interest (1944) there was only one company publishing Prairie Farmer magazine. If I had been searching for an item in the 19th century, I would have had to be more concerned about different periodicals with the same name. City of publication, publisher name, etc. would have been good ways to distinguish one from another. Never assume there is only one publication with a given name.

More than one Prairie Farmer--In Another Way

Catalog searches indicate that there were multiple editions of this magazine for a significant part of its run--at least ones for Illinois and Indiana during my time period of interest. I doubt if Prairie Farmer was the only magazine to run this sort of production and this is something I'll keep in mind whenever attempting to locate copies of other trade magazines. There could easily have been localized content inserted with the material distributed in all regions where the item was distributed. 

There were Prairie Farmer directories 

Prairie Farmer magazine published rural directories in Illinois and Indiana right before the first World War. I was aware of these publications and have used them in the past. The problem is that these directories (generally one for each county) appear in search results when "prairie farmer" is used as a keyword search. Workarounds to avoid these items from clogging my results need to be used carefully.

Inconsistent Cataloging

Catalogers are wonderful humans. But they are humans and occasionally make errors. The time period of publication I need was when there was no standardization of entries and librarians cataloging these materials don't have an "inside front cover," standardized number, etc. to guide them.  Consequently there may be several World Cat entries for the same publication.

Different Formats

Some issues of this publication have been microfilmed or digitized. The microfilm copies sometimes appear as a separate catalog entry.

The Year

Pay attention to the time period the catalog entry indicates it covered. An entry for Prairie Farmer at Knox College (located in the town where I work), indicated they only had some issues from the mid-1900s, well before what I needed. Many libraries only maintain a current run of issues of this magazine which is still being published.

Screaming for Logs

I will be honest--I don't keep all the search logs that I should. However, this search has made me painfully aware that sometimes logs are necessary. I'm starting a search log and a correspondence log and hopefully will have samples of those up in a future blog post.

24 February 2014

Hathitrust Revised

For some reason, I cannot duplicate the negative search results I obtained earlier on Hathitrust.

Madaleine J. Laird sent me these screen shots in response to my original post.

Image made 24 February 2014 by Madaleine J. Laird
 There it is...the one I was looking for.
Image made 24 February 2014 by Madaleine J. Laird
I'm not certain why I did not obtain this result the first time (the search was actually performed several times). Later searches made several hours later found the items as shown in Madaleine's images.

HathiTrust Does Not Equal Google Books and Google Books Does Not Equal Hathitrust

[note: at 11:17 AM Central time on 24 February, I cannot replicate the searches shown in these screen shots. A more detailed update will be posted later today]

This is a good example of why checking more than one site, set of digital images, database, etc. is necessary.

I'm in the process of trying to locate a copy of a 1944 letter my great-grandfather sent to the Prairie Farmer magazine. Google Books is how I found the reference and the snippet view is pretty clear that the name in the magazine is Fred Ufkes.

I searched at HathiTrust for the same item and it was not located.

Of course, there are reasons why the item was not found:

  • The digital image used by HathiTrust was not comparable quality to the one on Google Books.
  • The OCR used by HathiTrust did not recognize "Ufkes" as "Ufkes."
The reasons aren't necessarily germane at this point--but they serve to remind us that not all sets of images are created equally.

If I had only searched for Fred Ufkes on HathiTrust I never would have located the reference.

Are you limiting your searches?

We'll have an update on the search for the 1944 issue of Prairie Farmer as the search continues.

23 February 2014

Great-Granddad Ufkes Writes a Letter to the Prairie Farmer in 1944

The most surprising finds are the ones that we are not looking for.

A search on Google Books for something else located this 1944 reference in the Prairie Farmer for my great-grandfather, Fred Ufkes.

The "snippet" view is illegible (of course), but it's clearly a Fred Ufkes in Hancock County, Illinois, and there's was only one Fred Ufkes in Hancock County in 1944 (actually there's only been one resident of Hancock County, Illinois, named Fred Ufkes period).

1944 issues of Prairie Farmer are not available in the University of Illinois' "Farm, Field, and Fireside" collection.

Hopefully I can get a copy of the publication in some format. We'll have an update when it is warranted.

Stay tuned.

22 February 2014

The Little Brick-Secretary Hay's First School--Warsaw, Illinois

It's not often I purchase something on a non-relative on Ebay, but I stumbled across this postcard and ended up being the only bidder.

And I've decided to see what I can find out about the individuals on this card, both the recipient and the writer.  But I thought I'd post the card, front and back, here on the blog to see if any readers who were inclined could find out more about the people involved.

We'll call this an experiment in crowdsourcing.

The problem is that the writer really doesn't specifically identify himself.
It doesn't even give "Secretary Hay's" last name, but I'm certain readers can find out to whom the reference is being made if they don't know.

We'll have a summary post on this Ebay discovery in a few days. Stay tuned.

21 February 2014

1940 Teacher College Board Report Tells Where Aunt Margaret Taught

Virtually any printed material can contain a genealogical clue.

The image in this post is part of the "Teacher College Board of the State of Illinois" from 1940. The image itself was located on Mocavo.com

I've known for some time that my grandmother's sister Margaret Habben Hutchison taught home economics both before and after her marriage. I also had determined that Aunt Margaret graduated from what is now known as Western Illinois University in 1940.

According to this report, Aunt Margaret actually graduated on 19 July 1940 and her first teaching position was apparently in Gridley, Illinois-in McLean County.

Alumni magazines, yearbooks and other items published by the college are places where researchers typically think to find this type of employment material. In this case, since Aunt Margaret graduated from a state university her name appeared in this annual report.

I'm pretty Aunt Margaret is listed as "absent" in the 1940 census enumeration of her parents, Mimka and Tjode Habben, in Prairie Township, Hancock County, Illinois. If this information is correct, she would still have been in college at that point in time.

I'll have to do a mental check for other family members during this time period who might have graduated from "Western Illinois State Teachers College" during this time frame for similar materials.

I am doubtful the publications extend to the early 1960s when my mother graduated from the same institution. In her case I know where she taught during her entire teaching career, so while it would be neat to see her name "in print" the information would not be any revelation.

Why I'm Reading Genealogy Standards

Not every genealogist needs to be certified or wants to be certified.

And that's ok.

I've been reading the Board for Certification of Genealogists' Standards over the past few weeks as a part of my progress towards submitting my portfolio for certification. I've blogged about it a little bit and as time goes forward, there will be more posts about various aspects of the book. There's material in the standards that can help any genealogist who would like to enhance their research skills. Genealogists can benefit from the content of the book even if they have no intention of becoming certified. Just reading the standards and thinking about what various aspects mean for you and your research is a good thing.

Whenever a genealogist thinks about how they research, it has the chance of making them a better researcher. Whether they decide to become certified or not.

There's not just information in the book about how to meet the "genealogical standards." There is also a section about what is expected of a professional genealogist and that is good content for anyone who is thinking about hiring a genealogist to research part of their family tree. Does a genealogist have to be certified to be a professional genealogist? No. Can a professional be extremely competent if she is not certified? Absolutely.

Reading the Standards provides the opportunity to fine-tune my research process. That's true even if I don't agree with every word on every page.

I'll be creating more posts about the Standards over the next few months. Stay tuned.

My House in 1955

It's one thing to find it driving down the road. It is another to find it in a published book of pictures when you do not know the name of the owner.

I grew up in an old farmhouse north of Carthage, Illinois. I know exactly where it is. I can easily find it on a township map, an online satellite map, etc. But finding it in this 1955 Aerial County History Series for Hancock County, Illinois, took a little doing.

The main problem was that the house and accompanying acreage was not owned by my family in 1955. The property was a half mile east of where my paternal grandparents lived and was rented originally by my uncle in the early 1960s and later by my father starting in the late 1960s. I did not know the name of the owner in 1955. I knew the name of later owners, but that did not help me.

The pictures in the book were arranged by township and then alphabetically by owner within the township. I found where I lived on a plat map of the county in order to determine what section of Carthage township the house was located in. Since the section of each piece of property was given, that would help with my search. The "town" given was the mailing address of the owner. Sometimes that was the same name as the township in my case (but not always). Searching the digital images on  Mocavo.com was difficult because:

  • I didn't have the name of the owner
  • I had the route number wrong--I had forgotten where I grew up was route 4 when my father was growing up.
  • Searching for "Sec. 7" as a search term was not working quite the way I thought it should--even with the quotes. 
I quit searching and decided that it would be easier to go through the entire set of alphabetical set of pictures for Carthage Township and look closely at any property in section 7. I knew there would not be that many properties in section 7. 

And there weren't.

As soon as I saw this image, I knew I had the right place (and actually that name of Frank Oertel "rang a bell" the moment I saw it). The relative position of the house to the outbuildings and barn was right (although there was one more building than I remember). There was also some sort of circular cement fixture (a tank) to the north of the barn, which I had completely forgotten about until I saw the picture. 

Sometimes one has to search manually for that item of interest. Sometimes one has to use other finding aids to help (the township map with section numbers helped me remember the section number in which the farm was located). 

Patience would have helped also. If I had not been in such a hurry to find it, I could have asked my Dad who used to own the place the next time I saw him. He would have known. 

But then the search might not have been quite so fun.

A Man Who to His School Work Tends--Jurgen Goldenstein

This is the first picture I think I've ever seen of my uncle Jurgen--appearing in the 1926 Crimson Rambler from Carthage College. 

This was when Carthage College was still located in Carthage, Illinois. At this point, I only know that Goldenstein attended Carthage College in the 1926-1927 era.

 It's not clear who inserted the quote about Goldenstein, but the little quote about him in the 1926 Rambler reads "A man who to his school work tends, and careth not for female friends."

Carthage College Crimson Rambler, 1926 yearbook, page 39; digital image on  Mocavo.com 
There is a picture of Goldenstein in the 1927 Rambler as well.

digital image on  Mocavo.com

The blurb about Goldenstein in 1926 reads "A Goldenstein who hails from Golden. Ah yea, his very silence speaks for him. 'Silence is golden.' "

Someone really played up the Golden reference in the 1926 yearbook. The town of Golden was not named for the Goldensteins. In fact, Jurgen had a family of Goldenstein first cousins who also lived in the same general area.

Interesting pictures. I'm not certain if Goldenstein graduated from Carthage College or not--that's something I will need to follow up on. Goldenstein did serve in the United States Marine Corps and appears on muster rolls from the late summer of 1928 through October of 1953. If he did graduate from Carthage College, it would have been in 1928.

Update: According to the 1928 Rambler (p. 31), Goldenstein graduated in 1928 from Carthage College as a zoology major and was a 1923 of Golden Community High School.

Goldenstein's sister, Tjode (Goldenstein) Habben (1881-1954) is my great-grandmother.

20 February 2014

Variety of How-to Recorded Presentations

I have a wide variety of genealogy how-to webinars available for purchase--at only $5. The entire list can be viewed on our site.

Aerial Photographs of Churches and Cemeteries from 1955 in Illinois.

I've been playing the 1955 American Aerial County History Series from Hancock County, Illinois,  Mocavo.com. There's not just farm pictures in this publication, rural churches appear as well. 

Of personal interest was the Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church as shown below. By 1955, my own family had stopped attending this church, although my grandparents lived on a farm close enough to the church that the church could easily be seen from the front yard.

page 265 of original text

There even was a photograph of the Immanuel Cemetery in the book as well. The cemetery's growth between 1955 and today is evident (at least to me) from this picture.

page 243 of original text

Of course, no stones are readable.

Having been to the cemetery numerous times, I am somewhat familiar with it. The rectangular region on the left is virtually full and the trees that line the "back" of the cemetery (on the left, which would be the east side) are now gone. The trees on the north (in the back) are still there.

I'm reasonably certain that I've located the stone of my great-great-grandparents on the image below. My great-grandparents were not deceased in 1955, but they are buried pretty close to where the "S" appears in "Stone" below.

These images were located on Mocavo.com's digital version of this publication by searching for Immanuel as a keyword. That's why "Immanuel" is in yellow in the screen shots above.

I know these books were published for other Illinois counties, but I'm not certain which ones Mocavo.com has. But those with an interest in this time period might want to give a look on Mocavo.com and see for themselves.

Neat stuff.

[note: The black and white portions of these images were downloaded from the Mocavo.com site. The title of the database and the image numbers were retained in order to facilitate the relocation of these images. The red annotations were made by Michael John Neill on 20 February 2014--the same date as the viewing date of the images]

A Real Grass Widow

[humor attempt alert]

I have a relative who was a Grass widow. Yes, a Grass widow and not a grass widow. There is a difference.

You see my ancestor was Johannes Grass and when he died in the 1880s, his wife survived him. That makes her a Grass widow. 

If Your Ex-Husband Is Dead, Does That Make You a Widow?

P. A. Troutfetter was dead by 1927. That is true.

Whether that technically makes Violet B. Troutfetter his widow as she is shown in this 1927 Denver, Colorado, city directory is another story.

The Troutfetters were divorced in 1901 in El Paso County, Colorado. There are no documents indicating they married again and P. A. (better known as Philip) at some point returned to Thomas County, Kansas, where he died.

1927 Denver, Colorado, City Directory, p. 2199; digital image on Ancestry.com 20 February 2014
It was not unusual for a divorced woman to pass herself off as a widow when in actuality she was divorced. In some locales and time periods a woman may be referred to as a "grass widow," but that's not often used on census enumerations.

Always take the term "widow" with a small grain of salt.

The Wm. J. Troutfetter in this post is a brother to P. A. Troutfetter and the Victor E. is Wm. J's son. Violet and Philip Troutfetter had no children.

Whether having a dead ex-husband makes a woman a widow or not is another question entirely. And...in some cases it doesn't matter what the answer is as people can tell the census taker or directory information collector any version of reality that they care to.

19 February 2014

My Coin Arrives!

It arrived yesterday the coin I purchased on  Ebay. It's not a real coin and there's no place I can spend it.

The general store owned by Boerner and Troutfetter in western Kansas closed in the early 20th century.

It's not often I can pick up a little bit of family history on Ebay There's more on Ebay than simply pictures and postcards.

If you've not searched for names and locations in your personal history, give it a try. While I don't know the provenance of this item, I have no reason to doubt it's what it purports to be. 

I've got a few other items I'm watching on Ebay. We'll have updates for those items I am fortunate enough to purchase. 

A 1955 Aerial Photograph of Grandpa Neill's Farm

I've seen this 1955 book of aerial photographs of Hancock County, Illinois, before but I believe that Mocavo.com is the first place that includes a digital index of the book along with digital images. I'm not certain how many of these are in the collection of Mocavo.com materials as my own personal interest in the 1955 era is in Hancock County.

The image below shows the farm of my grandfather Cecil Neill taken from a plane flying east of the farm. The book indicates the farm is in section 12, but the farm is actually in Prairie Township, not Carthage township.

I will have to take a look at other entries in the book to determine if the geographic placename listed is for the township or the mailing address (given that "Rt. 1" is a part of the entry, I'm guessing that the reference is to a mailing address). While we are only showing one image in the post here, researchers are always advised to look at other items in any publication to gain perspective on what is included in an entry.

The one thing a person never gets from pictures like this is the perspective of how level the area is. In this case, it's not level. The road in front of the house is a state highway and the driveway is at the bottom of a hill and there's an incline as one heads north (to the right in this picture).

The house is no longer standing, but the garage is, as are the two barns in the back. The picture was apparently taken before my grandfather had a silo built and also before an addition was added to the west barn (in the rear of the picture). I even think I can see the outhouse in the picture as well.

Items like these would make excellent illustrations in family history materials.

Two Johns and Why I Needed to Learn

I will be the first to admit that I learned a great deal about genealogical research by the seat of my pants. It was the 1980s, there was no internet, and methodology books were few and far between. I also grew up 3 miles from the county courthouse in the county where most of my family had lived since the mid-1850s.

I began my genealogical research I was thirteen years of age. By the time I was fourteen I was confused and it was my ancestors' fault. Half of my family had non-English names, who all married within the same ethnic group, and found it perfectly normal to have children named Anke, Altje, Antje, Anna, and Gerd, Gerhard, Garrett, and George. The other half of my family found it normal to not mention much about their past or to have first cousins, who were also second cousins, who were also third cousins (yes, that's possible without anyone marrying a relative). This post is partially about the confusion and how I worked through it, not about extraneous details and citations (although though citations are important).

My ancestor was John M. Habben, who married Antje Fecht in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1881. As I researched John and his parents, Mimke and Antje (Jaspers) Habben, I learned that John had a brother slightly older than him. That brother's name:

John M. Hobbin.

Another researcher had merged the two Johns together, after all their names were similar, they were born in the same place, and their names were unusual, so they must be the same man. John M. Habben was my grandmother's grandfather. She never explained why there were two Johns, but did tell me that her uncle was a separate John M. Hobbin and he had changed his last name due to some sort of falling out. The fact that her grandfather had a brother with the same name was apparently something she had always known. She saw no need to question it.

Ok, so my great-great-grandfather John Habben had a brother John Hobbin--who shared the same set of parents.

The search is a long story, but the answer is relatively simple. In the area of Germany where the Habbens were from, the first names of Jann and Johann were different. In English, those names were both John. Jann was my ancestor. Johann was his brother. That's why they had the same name. But it took researching in the actual church records in Germany to dig out that distinction.

I could have taken the easy route and concluded the two men were the same. I could have merged them together and attributed the differences to the ever-so-vague realm of inconsistencies. Or I could not have cared about the differences. It would have been much faster and saved time and allowed me to complete my "tree" more quickly, as if there is any reward for finishing "first."

Genealogical research is not about getting it done as fast as we can. If the families are "non-traditional" and complicated, it may not even be about getting it "done" at all.

Sometimes there are those who say that some researchers take their research "too seriously." Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not always serious. But I do want to make my summarized information about my ancestors as accurate as possible. I don't want to merge two Johns together when they are in fact separate men. I want to avoid as much as I can connecting a person to the wrong family simply because I want to get it done so that I can move on to the next task.

Working out Jann and Johann required me to learn about a variety of records, both in the United States and in Germany. It required me to improve my methodology skills that have helped me research families in, not only 19th century Illinois and Europe, but also 18th century Virginia and other locations. Methodology can be applied to a variety of areas. Being concerned about being accurate does not make one "elite."

Each one of our ancestors took a lifetime to live. We shouldn't try to condense our discovery of them into a five minute search.

They deserve more.

18 February 2014

Another Ancestry.com Wish--Date of Upload or Modification

Another wish for Ancestry.com:

Some sort of time stamp on entries in their database. I don't have this idea all that well thought out, but some date of modification for entries in various databases. Some entries in Ancestry.com are occasionally updated in one way or another. It would be a nice feature to be able to sift out items by the date of last update or change.

And of course, it would be nice to have a little more in the way of specifics when Ancestry.com "updates" a database. Often it is not clear at all what changes have been made to a database.

Thanks to Elise Friedman who shared this idea with me on Facebook.

My Ancestry.com Wish

It is simple.

I'd like Ancestry.com to create a "Recently Viewed," "Eliminated from Consideration" or some similar button that I could "click" when I've already seen a result.

I do not need umpteenth cousin DNA matches.

I don't need other fancy smartphone, smart table, or other gizmo applications.

This would really help me use Ancestry.com.

But I bet they're not up to it. 

Common Knowledge

Genealogists are aware of the importance of citations in their research and in their writing.

Sometimes the question is asked "where do I draw the line when I write something that is common knowledge?" Does one have to cite common knowledge? What is common knowledge really depends upon the audience.

The general rule of thumb I use is, "the more specific the statement" the more likely it is that I need to include a citation.

If I say that Hancock County, Illinois, was formed in 1825, that (to me) qualifies as common knowledge, particularly if my audience is of a genealogical or historical bent. That date can easily be located in any of a variety of references, hopefully which are correct.

However, if I make a statement about the county being formed in 1825 and then start to specifically state how the boundaries are laid out (mentioning specific lines, townships, sections, etc.), what other county court has jurisdiction over the county residents until a county government can be set up, and other details--then a citation is needed. The year of formation can easily be referenced for those who are unaware of it. The specific details need a citation.

Is it fussing over details? Perhaps. But chances are if you are discussing all those details of the county's formation you used a specific reference other than Ancestry.com's Red Book, the old Handy Book for Genealogists, etc. and you should let your readers know what you've used.

And if you are writing "common knowledge" from memory, even more citations may be helpful as it never hurts to "doublecheck memory."

A Quick "When to Quit" Update on Altje

I've had several private emails specifically about Altje in response to the "When to Quit" post so I thought I'd quickly provide a little more detail about her. 

Altje was born in Wrisse, Ostfriesland, Germany, in March of 1848, the daughter of Johann Luken Jurgens Ehmen Goldenstein and his wife Tjode Anna Focken Tammen, per church records. Aurich is the nearby "county seat" and while many online posts indicate she and her siblings were born in Aurich they were not. The place of birth is really not germane to the immigration question. 

Altje married Hinrich Wilhelm Schuster in Adams County, Illinois, in August of 1870 as indicated by the marriage records of Adams County, Illinois. The marriage date provides a "drop dead" date for her immigration to the United States. She may have known of Hinrich before her arrival in the United States as she already had relatives and extended family living in Adams County at the time. Altje may have traveled alone or with others--particularly since she knew where she was going (it's stamped on her trunk) and already had family in the area.

Altje died in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1907. She and Hinrich are buried in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in rural Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois. It is not known if she returned to visit Germany.

Based upon the marriage, the end of Altje's immigration time frame is August of 1870.

Many Ostfriesen immigrants during the time period in question arrived in New York. That does not mean Altje did. Given where she was settling, she could very well have landed in New Orleans and taken transportation up the Mississippi. She would have stopped at Quincy and taken the train from there to Keokuk Junction.

As for her name...

Altje's father's surname for most of his life was Goldenstein. Her father's surname at birth (based upon patronymics was Jurgens). Her father had brothers who used the surname of Ehmen (another ancestral name). It is also possible that Altje is listed on a manifest with one of these surnames instead of Goldenstein. Altje's patronymic surname would have been Johannsen (generally rendered as Janssen), but patronyms were not really being used when she was born and all of her siblings used the surname of Goldenstein. 

I've not searched for the other possible surnames and I've not searched the manifests manually. Whether or not I decide these things are "worth my time" was part of the subject of my original post

Note: Altje's parents are my ggg-grandparents.

17 February 2014

When to Quit

Immigrant trunk of Ahltie[sic] F. Goldenstein, in possession
of Michael John Neill
I posted this image to the Facebook page for "Genealogy Tip of the Day" and remarked that anyone who had time could search for Altje Goldenstein on a US passenger manifest because I had not found her.

And it got me to thinking:

"When is it time to quit?"

It's a good question, particularly when the record or document for which we are searching may not answer any "burning questions" or has little chance of shedding much new light on the person of interest. If we are looking for something more out of personal curiosity than of necessity, how much search is required? In the case of Altje, her life is well-documented in Germany and in the United States. It would be "nice" to have the manifest (after all, it may list neighbors or close associates), but how much time should be spent before I decide it simply is "time to quit?"

The Board for Certification of Genealogists' Genealogy Standards: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition may have a section on "when to quit," but I certainly didn't see it. While the Standards has a glossary, "when to quit" isn't one of the defined terms and there was not an index I could consult.

There is a paragraph in the Standards on "Terminating the plan" (page 15), but it really did not address the issue of when to quit with much detail. Running out of money is pretty self-evident and running out of time can easily be the result of deadlines imposed by editors, publishers and others outside the genealogist's control. Those want their personal research to be done in the spirit of the Standards have different limitations than researchers working for hire. But they do have limitations (sleep for one) and need to know when they've effectively done all they could.

Part of the answer is a research log--a detailed one. The research log will not tell you when to quit, but it will at least let you have an inventory of what you searched, how it was searched, when it was searched, and what the results of that search were.

As multiple databases and websites offer acces to the same information (with perhaps different indexes) and occasionally modify those indexes, the name of the website, specific database, and date of search must be a part of your research log.

The way in which you searched (first name and last name variations, wildcards used, whether Soundex was used) is also a part of that research log.

The results are as well.

For Altje, it may be time to quit when, I have:

  • accessed arrivals into all US ports that accepted passenger ships during the time period she arrived.
  • if a manual search of those manifests is not possible (or practical)--that's a lot of pages to read one page at a time, my searches of online indexes to those manifests should include:
    • all name variants used
    • time periods used
    • ports searched
    • websites used--with database titles
There's not a real "good" answer as to when it is time to quit in this case--the search for Altje is a personal one, given that I have her immigrant trunk and that she is my great-great-grandfather's sister. However, when I've searched all reasonable name variants, in the appropriate time period for all ports that have extant records, it may be time to stop. Yes, I would like to know if she travelled with others from her village, but given that I already know when and where she was born and who who parents were, that information isn't going to help me as much as it might in other cases. 

The only thing I have not personally done is to search the manifests manually--simply because I do not have time. The detailed research log is something I can review to determine if there is something I missed or if a new database or index becomes available. I could also have another researcher look over my research log to see if there is something I missed. 

There are always ways I could broaden my search of database. The drawback to this is that the number of matches grows with each result.

The Standards indicates that "no other resources" to consult is another reason to terminate the plan. That's not really true in my case either as there are the original manifests. The Standards makes the excellent point that terminating the search will not lead to "genealogical proof." This is usually true. In my case there is indirect evidene that Altje immigrated given that she was born in Germany and married and died in the west-central Illinois.

For me the time to "terminate the plan" is when the perceived benefits of locating the record are less than the amount of time required to locate the actual record. I can easily show that Altje immigrated using indirect evidence. I just can't find direct evidence. That would be on the manifest.

One simply cannot locate every item one wishes one had. And there's not always a clear cut answer of "yes, you've done enough."

16 February 2014

Reversed Pictures from the 1860s

This is the image as posted on the CNN website on 15 Feburary in an article on President Abraham Lincoln.  I had difficulty reading the handwriting at the top and originally thought that I was losing my ability to read. 

That's not the case as apparently the photograph has been flipped horizontally.

Kadish, Philip, "The Race-Mixing Hoax that Dogged Lincoln, CNN.com, http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/15/opinion/kadish-lincoln-hoax/index.html?hpt=hp_mid, downloaded 16 February 2014

Because when I flipped the image horizontally, the handwriting was clearly "Lincoln's funeral."
reverse of image above.

Ever wonder if that picture of an ancestor you found on someone's website, blog, etc. has been flipped?

Maybe, maybe not, but I'll be paying closer attention in the future.

Making Your Case

It is really impossible to make "rules" for what to include in a genealogical proof. But here's what I think about when trying to "make my case:"
  • A statement of what you are trying to prove
  • any assumptions you’ve made about the records, the people, the time period, and the location
  • the inconsistencies in the records and (with reasons) which version you believe to be correct
  • the evidence you’ve used and how the evidence you’ve used makes your point
  • if your conclusion “flies in the face” of a dearly held conclusion, consider including evidence analysis of why that conclusion is incorrect
  • why you ignored or did not include certain pieces of information in your analysis
  • the research process when it is key to the analysis (How you found a marriage record is not necessary. How you searched a census index to find “matches” for a three state area is.)
  • complete citations for every statement taken from a document and for historical facts that are not common knowledge
  • short summary of your argument along with a restatement of your original statement
I'm still reading  BCG (Board for Certification of Genealogists) Genealogy Standards: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition manual. It addresses many things, but putting together a proof argument is just as much art as it is anything else. 

The first two items on this list come from my mathematical background. In my worldview, there is no proof unless you state what you are trying to prove and clearly state your assumptions. You don't necessarily have to state them right at the beginning, but they should be stated. Twice for Casefile Clues, I've written up pre-1850 census families and both times I've included a statement of assumptions about the records. Those assumptions are also an important part of presentations I've given on the subject. 

I'm not even certain this list is complete. However, if I think about all these items every time and try and make my point clearly, then I'm in pretty good shape. I also like to end any analysis with where to go next. 

Because as we all know. One answer always brings more questions.